We had spent the night sitting on the linoleum floor in the hallway just outside the ICU. They didn’t allow either of us in but every half hour or so would come out to report to us. My friend, he was my friend but he was also my boss at work, my mentor, my counselor, the one I had asked just days before whether the man I was dating was too mentally ill to love, had come as soon as I’d called from the hospital lobby where the police had dropped me off.
The night went on for days, life sitting on the floor, looking at the slim light under the ICU doors and wiping the floor grime from our hands on to our jeans. He bought coffee for me and a few times we went to the place in the hospital where we could smoke. And then we came back to reclaim our seats, our heavy talk and fatigue making indentations in the tile we could feel with our backsides. It was a vigil. But never once did my friend tell me that what had happened might be the answer I was seeking.
In the morning, I had to go home, thank the sitter, wake my daughter for school, walk her the two blocks to first grade. The man in the ICU had many people to care for him but my daughter had only me. My friend drove me the several blocks to my upper flat and instead of waiting for me to leave the car, came around and opened the door. I wasn’t surprised, I was grateful. I radiated weakened condition, frailty draped on me like a thrift store shawl.
My weakness from the night and the truth I was starting to know made me feel thin and slight. Climbing the stairs to my apartment seemed impossible. I wanted him to carry me. Someone should carry me, I thought. Someone should carry me to the top of the stairs and put me in a chair with a blanket and stand aside while I cover my face in my hands for the rest of the time that the sun is up.
He stopped at the bottom of the stairs. waiting for me to turn around and look at him. He looked tired but not like me, tired like someone who had worked all night but someone who could shower and start over. He wasn’t flattened by this. It wasn’t his tragedy. He had balanced all night his different roles and now he wanted to go back to work. We were done sitting on the floor together.
“Let me ask you this, Jan. Who do you trust right now? Who is the one person you know you can trust?”
I looked at him a good long time. It seemed a long time but I was tired and it might have been just seconds. I didn’t want to have to think about it, who I trusted. I trusted him but he was leaving. He wanted to leave. Who did I trust who wouldn’t leave?
“My mother,” I said, “my mother.” And I walked up the stairs to call her.
At BlogHer#15, I attended a workshop that included discussion of ‘exploded moments.’ Intrigued by this, I decided to do a little series of exploded moments to see if I could get better at writing this way. This is #1.